10 Things to Know About Your Central Air Conditioner
Things You Should Know About Your Central Air Conditioner
Almost every home in the United States has an air conditioning system. Yet not everyone understands how AC units work at a fundamental level. This list is a compilation of interesting things that you might not know about your air conditioning unit.
1. Modern air conditioning dates to 1902. Engineer Willis Carrier invented the first modern air conditioner at the turn of the 1900s. His name is the one on Carrier heating and cooling systems. This system is the foundation of how AC systems still work today.
2. An air conditioner works by removing heat from one environment and moving it to another. Most central air conditioners have an inside and outside component. The compressor and condenser are outside, and the evaporator is in the inside unit.
Depending on which season you’re in, winter or summer, the heat exchange moves the heat from the environment from one space to the other. When the air conditioner is running, heat is moved from inside the home to the outside. When the heat is running, heat energy is extracted from the outside and moved to the inside.
3. Refrigerant is the substance that removes heat from the air. Refrigerants are an interesting type of substance – they can be converted from a gas to liquid and back to a gas with relative ease. The refrigerant in an air conditioning system works in a closed loop system. It absorbs heat from the inner rooms in your home, and then releases absorbed heat to the outside air in the outside half of your AC system.
Inside your home, where the heat is to be removed, the refrigerant is congealed as a high-pressured liquid inside the evaporator coil of your air conditioning unit. Inside your home, the evaporator coil absorbs heat, then passes it via the refrigerant to the condenser coil in the outside half of the air conditioning unit.
The condenser coil releases the heat that has been drawn from the inside rooms to the outside air. The refrigerant is then circulated to the inside again, to the evaporator coil.
4. Air conditioners also remove moisture from the air. Have you ever heard the saying, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”? Air conditioning systems remove moisture from the air, as humid air makes you feel uncomfortable. This happens as moisture in the air accumulates on the cold evaporator coil on the inside unit. This water vapor flows through condensation lines to a water collection tray, where it is drained to an outlet.
5. Changing your air filters is important. For central air conditioning systems, the filters should be changed about once a month during peak summer months. Filters have a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Rating Value) rating, somewhere between 1 and 12. It is recommended you get filters that are rated at least 6 MERV.
Air filters serve a few purposes. First, the filters keep dust and other particulate from amassing on the evaporator coil. This keeps the evaporator coil functioning properly. Secondly, changing the filters keeps dust and dander from being circulated throughout your home.
If you have pets or a high-traffic home, you may need to change the air filters more frequently.
6. Your outdoor condenser needs to have room to work. This is the outside component of your central air conditioner, usually seated on a slab of concrete. If brush, foliage, or shrubs grow too close to the condenser unit, debris can clog the intake fins. This will make your air conditioner work harder and be less efficient. Be sure to leave 24 inches of clearance on all sides for the condenser unit. If it becomes clogged or dirty, turn off the condenser, and clean it with a Shop Vac, using a soft bristle brush attachment.
7. Efficiency ratings (SEER) mean better use of your energy. We put together a resource here on what energy efficiency ratings mean, and how to choose an air conditioner that is a perfect fit for your home.
8. Ducting plays an important role in air conditioning capacity.
Duct leakage can account for a 20 to 40% dropoff in heat extraction capacity. Sealing leaky air ducts and insulating ducts that pass outside the cooled space (attics, garages, etc) can help your central air conditioner function at peak efficiency.
9. Regular maintenance helps keep your central air conditioner working great. Homeowners can usually do basic maintenance, like changing the filters, and making sure the outside unit is free of obstructions and debris. If the air conditioner seems to not be cooling like it used to, or working much harder than it used to, it might be time to call a professional HVAC contractor. Your refrigerant my be leaking, or there may be airflow problems. A professional HVAC company like Ventwerx can help you determine what the issue is.
10. Use a programmable thermostat. This piece of equipment helps regulate the temperature in your home. As a guideline, the programmable thermostat will keep the temperature inside your house about twenty degrees cooler than it is outside. So if it is eighty degrees outside, the thermostat will keep the temperature inside your home about sixty degrees.